You possibly can’t be assist however be struck by two quick however very distinct ideas when powering the 2019 Audi Q8 SUV via Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth:
This a part of the world perpetually dishes out the form of once-in-a-lifetime, 360-degree panoramas that make it look like somebody’s clicked the widescreen button on the cinema of your life. It is each stark and huge sufficient to make one really feel totally insignificant, a mere sentient smudge on an interstellar canvas.
The 2019 Audi Q8 is an all-wheel-drive tonic for any such ill-advised navel-gazing. You possibly can’t assist however really feel very particular and important when getting behind the wheel of this luxury and tech-rich SUV.
The Q8 is Audi’s new range-topping SUV, using atop the identical primary structure as its larger however much less posh sibling, the Q7. Designed to tackle rivals just like the Land Rover Vary Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne, this two-row SUV may also be cross-shopped in opposition to fashions just like the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and BMW X6. The Q8 could also be smaller than the Q7, however as its alphanumeric designation makes a bit clearer, it’s going to be the corporate’s final SUV, one which’s out there loaded to the gunwales with tech.
Whereas the bigger Q7 is one thing of a 21st-century station wagon for the prosperous, the 16.Four-foot-long Q8 takes a markedly extra private strategy to SUV luxurious, together with extra athletic dynamics. If sharing its underlying DNA with a three-row household truckster is someway off-putting, know that the Q8 additionally shares its MLB Evo structure with the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus, two of the highest-performance SUVs ever to nuzzle a valet stand.
Audi’s snarly Q8 squares off in opposition to the Vary Rover Sport and Cayenne this fall.
It helps that the Q8 additionally appears to be like very totally different than the bigger Q7. Or, at the least, it helps if you’re a fan of this new mannequin’s face, which includes what Audi officers say is the way forward for their SUV design language. In the principle, which means a way more distinguished eight-sided grille, with a thicker “masks” body surrounding skinny vertical helps. Out again, there is a full-width band of taillamps that look an terrible lot like these of the aforementioned Lamborghini (no dangerous factor).
The Q8 will not arrive till late fall, and Audi USA remains to be figuring out whether or not they’ll provide the grille in physique coloration, gloss black, distinction grey, or some mixture thereof. After seeing examples painted every means on the launch (Europe will get all three), I am satisfied this might be an unusually vital determinant to how effectively this look is acquired by patrons. Whereas the Q8 appears to be like higher in individual than within the photographs, I nonetheless discover the brand new nostril unsettling and never significantly profitable — particularly when completed in contrasting colours. My advice? Go for a darkish physique coloration to assist the entrance finish mix in.
When it arrives in sellers late this fall, the 2019 Q8 might be powered by Audi’s well-regarded three.Zero-liter turbocharged TFSI V6, tuned right here to ship 335 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque backed by an eight-speed computerized with paddle shifters.
A 48-volt delicate hybrid system comes commonplace, consisting of a small 10-Ah lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter (BAS). The powertrain not solely improves effectivity through cease/begin, but in addition via its capability to coast for prolonged durations with the engine off and uncoupled at speeds between 34 and 99 mph. Between the electrical help and the engine’s pressured induction, I discovered there to be loads of energy, even at extraordinarily excessive altitudes. We ascended mountain roads to a (actually) breathtaking 15,000 ft at pace — up into the form of skinny air that will wilt a naturally aspirated engine — and I nonetheless discovered loads of energy, significantly in sport mode.
The mild-hybrid assisted V6 carried out like a champ, even in excessive altitudes and dusty situations.
That stated, it is vital to notice that the usual Q8 is not supposed as a foil for higher-power variations of rivals, together with fashions just like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo or the BMW X6 M. Whereas formally unconfirmed, higher-output SQ8 and RSQ8 fashions are all however assured, so if commonplace mannequin would not pack sufficient oomph, there figures to be many dozens — if not tons of — of extra ponies cresting the not-too-distant horizon.
Not like within the Q7, there are not any plans for a much less highly effective, inexpensive 2.Zero-liter inline 4 mannequin.
Gas economic system figures aren’t absolutely baked but, however a comparable V6-powered Q7 checks in at 19 miles per gallon metropolis, 25 freeway and 21 mixed. On condition that it is a bit extra aerodynamic, barely lighter, and it has the aforementioned mild-hybrid help, it is in all probability affordable to count on that the Q8 will eke out a pair extra digits in every cycle.
The Q8’s cabin is all screens and slickness.
MMI, my, my
Inside, the Q8 additional breaks with its Q7 stablemate due to a very totally different inside. In reality, as a result of it makes use of Audi’s newest MMI Contact Response system with its two giant touchscreens and no multicontroller, the Q8’s cabin expertise may be very totally different, having extra in widespread with Audi’s almost-here A8, A7 and A6 fashions.
Whereas I perceive why automobile designers accomplish that, expertise has taught me to be suspect of automakers who take away bodily switchgear in favor of touchscreen-based infotainment programs, particularly multi-screen options. Typically talking, they’re extra hassle than they’re value, being convoluted of structure, and most significantly, irritating to make use of in a transferring car.
The flat-top gearshift acts as a steadying base to your wrist when utilizing the decrease touchscreen.
That stated, I did not have prior expertise with MMI Contact Response, but I discovered it to be about as well-engineered a touchscreen system as I’ve discovered. In my estimation, solely Genesis’ single-screen setup is extra intuitive amongst luxurious manufacturers, and the Korean setup is not wherever close to as slick or highly effective as this Audi rig. Even for present customers of earlier MMI programs, it’s going to nonetheless take some getting used to, but it surely’s really a reasonably pleasant setup.
Explicit likes embody the crispness and pace of the double-decker screens themselves (sized 10.1 and eight.6 inches, respectively), in addition to the power to create customized shortcuts for key features. The slick method by which the elective 360-degree digital camera system may be considered (together with spinning a digital model of the Q8 to see what’s round it) can be significantly good work, as is the handwriting perform for knowledge entry (it even permits for each cursive and overwriting letters). Naturally, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto assist are current.
The remainder of the Q8’s cabin is not any much less spectacular, with the same old array of high-quality supplies and switchgear current, in addition to all-day-comfortable sport seats. It is value noting that regardless of its extra rakish roofline, the Q8 nonetheless has surprisingly beneficiant room within the again. The rear seat slides fore-aft and the 60:40 break up seatbacks recline, however you needn’t monkey with the settings to get snug.
We’ll have to attend for remaining cabin numbers, however the Q8’s second row feels far more spacious than a few of its extra hunchbacked rivals (I am taking a look at you, BMW and Mercedes). My five-foot, nine-inch body had loads of headroom and a surplus of legroom. In reality, it is so roomy again there that it is stunning that Audi would not provide rear-seat leisure screens and even an upscale four-seat structure with fitted middle console.
There’s as much as 62 cubic ft of house with the rear seats stowed. Pardon our mud.
Cargo house is likewise stable, with as much as 62 cubic ft of house out there with the second row stowed.
Outward visibility within the Q8 is kind of good — additionally markedly higher than in competing “four-door coupe” SUVs. And regardless of the tremendously diverse Chilean terrain I drove on, the cabin was unerringly quiet. Nearly spookily so, really, particularly when contemplating that the Q8 is the one Audi crossover to make use of frameless doorways (which usually do not seal out the encompassing world as effectively). Plus, my take a look at automobile featured huge 22-inch elective wheels (19-, 20- and 21-inch models are additionally out there) carrying huge 285/40 Continental rubber, making such serenity an much more spectacular accomplishment.
All-road all ’rounder
Outsized wheels additionally are inclined to negatively impression journey high quality, however the Q8 was exceedingly effectively behaved all through, particularly given the wildcard nature of the surfaces we skilled in Chile, which diverse from well-tended sunbaked superslab to pothole-laced secondary roads to hard-packed purple filth, muddy trails and even snow within the mountains.
Some credit score is owed to my take a look at automobile’s elective air suspension (adjustable metal springs are commonplace), which may alternatively present as much as 10 inches of floor clearance for gentle off-roading or hunker the Q8 over its fenders to appear like a steroidal scorching hatch.
Chile is not simply attractive, it is a tortuous and treacherous high-altitude testing floor.
Even standing on its tippy toes, the Slovakian-built Q8 will not fear any Land Rovers in the case of traversing the tough stuff, however I used to be in a position to ford a shallow stream and certain round a easy hilly off-road course with impunity. In different phrases, the Q8 is extra succesful when the pavement ends than 99.9-percent of potential homeowners will ever want.
Within the US, the out there air suspension might be bundled with four-wheel steering, which helps this largish midsize-SUV deal with extra adroitly when pushed, as does the all-wheel-drive system’s default 40:60 front-to-rear torque break up. Whereas no sports activities automobile, it is easy to drive the Q8 with confidence, thanks partially to its sturdy brakes and good steering accuracy.
The Q8 is a must-drive entry for these available in the market for a private luxurious SUV.
21st-century private luxurious
Traditionally, I’ve failed to grasp the attract of “four-door coupe” SUVs. With out exception, they sacrifice cabin house and extract more cash from wallets than their extra upright and traditional counterparts, all with out paying a lot in the best way of dividends aesthetically or when it comes to efficiency. Even Audi execs I spoke with admitted an aversion to the style, however the long-running success of rivals finally grew to become an excessive amount of to disregard, particularly in such a profitable section.
The factor is, regardless of its racier greenhouse and distinguished blistered fenders (homages to Audi’s legendary Ur-Quattro, I’m advised), once I take a look at the Q8, I do not really see a four-door coupe SUV in any respect — I see a tech-rich, helpfully athletic and sensibly proportioned premium crossover.
Maybe that is for the very best.
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